Stains, Dyes and Glazes
by Alan Noel
Professional Wood Finisher
In virtually every class I have taught over the years I've made it a
point to get the ball rolling with a brief discussion of the subject at hand
followed with a general finishing question and answer session. Without fail
the two questions that always come up during these discussions are "What
are the differences between dyes, stains and glazes, and how and when are each of
Although these materials and their uses may seem confusing, here are a few tips
that will help to clear things up.
- Dyes are always transparent when in solution. Hold a bottle of Coca Cola up to the sun
and you will see what we call Coca Cola Mahogany. A very nice reddish brown dye
that is a traditional color for mahogany furniture. Dyes contain no binder and have to be
- Stains always have to be stirred while in use because they contain solid pigments
that settle to the bottom after a short time. Basically a thin paint. Sometimes a dye
will be added and these are called dye stains. Still, if pigment is in the can consider it
- Stains contain a binder, usually a thin oil-based varnish to lock in the color and to allow
multiple coats without lifting previous coats of stain.
- Glazes are virtually the same as stains but they contain a lot more pigment
with a lot less binder or no binder at all and are usually layered between coats of
finish. This makes glazes a little harder to use because they have to be top
coated without being disturbed. A spray can of lacquer sealer or shellac will do the
trick to lock them in.
- Glazes add depth to a finish and also highlight carvings and
lines and other decorative elements of a piece.
- An enthusiastic finisher or hobbyist can combine any and all of these products
for a vast array of interesting finishes and techniques.
Visiting Atlanta? Attend one of Alan's upcoming highly informative Highland Woodworking wood
French Polish Workshop, September 11, 2010
Visit Highland Woodworking's Online
Finishing the Finish, October 6, 2010
Antiques Show and Tell, October 9, 2010
French Polish Workshop, October 13, 2010
Antique Restoration, October 23 & 24, 2010
Spray Finishing, November 6, 2010
Antiques Show and Tell, November 13, 2010
French Polish Workshop, November 17, 2010
Finishing the Finish, December 15, 2010
Wood Finishing Supplies Department
Alan can be reached directly via email c/o Alan Noel Furniture Refinishing at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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